News / USA

Moqtada al-Sadr Tells Followers He Supports New Iraqi Government

Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gestures during his first public appearance since returning from nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, 08 Jan 2011
Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gestures during his first public appearance since returning from nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, 08 Jan 2011

Anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr addressed his followers in the Iraqi city of Najaf Saturday after returning from a nearly four-year stint studying Shi’ite theology in Iran. 

Thousands of supporters came to cheer their long absent leader after his self-imposed exile in Iran.   

Moqtada al-Sadr left Iraq nearly four years ago when U.S. forces had reached a pinnacle of troop strength and now he was returning to a different Iraq, ready to assert its independence.

Much of Sadr’s rhetoric on Saturday drew applause with many in the crowd being devoted supporters.

Iraq is still occupied, Sadr claims, and his followers must continue to resist the occupiers - U.S. and others - by all possible means. He then urged the crowd to chant ‘down with the occupant.’

At the gathering in the Shi’ite stronghold of Najaf,  Sadr appeared  to have buried his longstanding animosity with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose recently formed government he finally agreed to support. That support, however, is tempered.

He says that the Iraqi government has now been formed and that he is willing to support it if it serves the interests of the people. If not, he threatens vaguely, there are avenues to pursue.

Mr. Maliki, for his part, addressed Moqtada al-Sadr and others, telling a gathering of Iraqi police officers his erstwhile opponents are now in the government and should stop complaining.

He insists that no one should complain that he has been deprived of a place within the government, and so no one should flout the law and create disturbances.

Iraq expert James Denselow of Kings College in London stresses that Moqtada al-Sadr is a "component of Iran’s strategy in Iraq," and that Sadr has "shown himself to be pragmatic enough to abstain from violence," as the U.S. prepares to withdraw by year’s end.

Sadr’s fiery rhetoric, he notes, looks calculated to resemble the lingo of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and his politics appears to center on Hezbollah’s state-within-a-state model.

"The Hezbollah model is shown clearly in his comments," said Denselow. 'He will use the government as far at it is useful for him and his party and he will see the state as a prize to be captured and to be sort of patronized in terms of his supporters through ministries and through finance, but he will not necessarily look to build the central state and Maliki as independent actors to themselves."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Maliki, he argues, has both domestic and regional issues to deal with, trying to keep his fragile coalition together and trying to please both the Arabs and the Iranians. As evidence of the fence he now straddles,  Mr. Maliki hosted Arab League chief Amr Moussa Saturday, asking to host the next Arab summit. The visit came just 48 hours after that of Iran’s new acting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More